Heart Health Articles

Leading Stem Cell Expert Moves To UK

July 13, 2017

A UK University has lured another top international stem cell scientist to the region.

Karim Nayernia, who is relocating from Germany to take up the post of Professor of Stem Cell Biology at Newcastle University, is carrying out pioneering work that has the potential to lead to future therapies for a range of medical conditions such as heart disease, Parkinson's Disease and male infertility.

The opportunity to work alongside world-class stem cell scientists at Durham and Newcastle Universities, as well as doctors in the region's hospitals, was a key attraction.

He will be based at the International Centre for Life in a new suite of multi-million pound facilities for stem cell research, funded by the regional development agency, One NorthEast.

Stem cells have the potential to develop into any tissue type in the body and could therefore be used to develop a wide range of medical therapies.

Prof Nayernia joins from the Georg-August University of Göttingen, Germany. There he was part of a team that was the first in the world to isolate a new type of stem cell from adult mouse testes (male sex glands), called spermatagonial stem cells.

The team published its results in the top international scientific journal, Nature, in April. It was able to show that some of these stem cells, called multipotent adult germline stem cells (maGSCs), turned into heart, muscle, brain and other cells.

Prof Nayernia and his team proposed that similar cells could be extracted from men using a simple testicular biopsy. On the basis of these cells, new stem cell techniques could be developed in order to treat a variety of illnesses.

To do so, the spermatogonial stem cells would be taken from a male patient, cultivated in a test tube and re-transplanted into the same patient to replace damaged tissue. A danger of rejection of the new tissue would not exist because the stem cells would be genetically matched to the patient. However, clinical applications such as this are a number of years away.

Prof Nayernia's arrival will broaden the portfolio of world-class research which is the hallmark of the region's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (ISCBRM)*, where researchers are working on embryonic stem cells, stem cells from babies' umbilical cord blood and other adult stem cells.

He will be bringing one fellow researcher with him from Germany and is due to appoint another when he arrives in Newcastle.

Prof Nayernia said: "I'm extremely excited to be coming to the North East, which has an excellent global reputation for stem cell research. The move will give me the chance to take my research to its next level and to collaborate with a world-class team of stem cell researchers and clinicians while doing this.

"The ultimate aim is to work towards developing therapies for a range of medical conditions afflicting patients worldwide, and I am sure the opportunities provided in the North East will bring me much closer to that goal."

Another top scientist, Prof Colin McGuckin, joined the ISCBRM last year. He is pursuing work using stem cells from babies' umbilical cords with co-researcher Dr Nico Forraz. In May they announced a £160,000 deal with an American stem cell company, which will provide additional funding for their research.

Professor Michael Whitaker, chairman of the ISCBRM, said: "The Institute has already enjoyed a number of achievements in the stem cell field which have allowed us to take small steps towards developing new patient therapies.

"We welcome Karim as another leading scientist who has been attracted to the Institute because of its scientific excellence and focus on eventual outcomes for patients."

Dr Caroline Gladwell, healthcare innovation manager with the regional development agency, One NorthEast, said: "We are delighted that our investment in stem cell research and state-of-the-art laboratories, along with the investments of our partners, is bearing fruit and attracting international research talent of the likes of Professor Nayernia.

"The region has acknowledged breadth and depth in stem cell expertise, and Professor Nayernia's appointment will add considerable value to this."

Alastair Balls, chief executive of the Centre for Life, which has contributed funding to the stem cell research programme, said: "We are delighted at the continued success of the pioneering work on stem cell research at the Centre for Life which has enhanced the region's reputation for world class science.

"We therefore welcome Professor Karim Nayernia who will add greatly to the Centre's reputation for work of international significance."


Contact: Prof Karim Nayernia

University of Newcastle upon Tyne